Despite Small Number of Hate Crimes Targeting Jews, Antisemitic Sentiment Remains Widespread in Hungary, New Report Concludes
Despite recording low numbers of hate crimes against Jews compared with other countries in Europe, antisemitic sentiment remains widespread in Hungary, according to a new report published this week by the central European nation’s Jewish community.
Issued by Maszihisz, the representative body of the 100,000-strong Hungarian Jewish community, the report cited 53 antisemitic incidents in 2019 and 70 in 2020. Only one of these incidents involved a physical assault, while the remainder were comprised of acts of vandalism and the promotion of various antisemitic conspiracy theories.
By comparison, Germany — which has a Jewish community of approximately 120,000 — logged at least 2,275 antisemitic crimes in 2020 alone, including 55 violent assaults.
However, Hungarian Jews remain concerned about the prevalence of antisemitic beliefs and stereotypes among ordinary Hungarians as well as the political class.
“Antisemitism is present across the whole of Hungarian society, and we have to combat this phenomenon,” Andras Heisler, the head of Maszihisz, told the Budapest Times on Wednesday.
An appendix to the Maszihisz report compiled by Budapest pollster Median concluded that 20 percent of Hungarians held views that were “strongly antisemitic,” while a further 16 percent were described as “moderately antisemitic.” These figures were consistent with previous years, the pollster observed, while the remaining 64 percent of the population “show no antisemitic attitudes at all.”
Heisler added that the near absence of physical attacks on Jews meant that “Hungary was in a better position than other countries in Europe.”
But he explained that fear within the Jewish community over antisemitic prejudice was related more to social ostracizing. As an example, he cited a bat mitzvah ceremony held for 12 girls at a recently-renovated synagogue in Budapest. According to Heisler, the ceremony was not filmed because the parents of the girls “were worried about what would happen if their colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances found out they are Jews.”
Assembled using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as a guide, the Maszihisz report included a section on “antisemitism in public life.” Among the antisemitic accusations hurled by Hungary’s far-right groups was the claim that Israel was “buying up” land and property there in order to “colonize the country.” Meanwhile, conspiracy theories about the Hungarian-Jewish financier George Soros flowed in abundance, with more than 50 percent of Hungarians holding a hostile view of him amid a consistent anti-Soros messaging campaign by the government deemed by many to be antisemitic.
Among those Hungarians with defined antisemitic views, 40 percent support the ruling Fidesz Party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Another 16 percent are backers of the ultranationalist Jobbik Party, the Maszihisz report revealed, with the remainder split among other parties.